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MEETING WITH THE RSN RURAL FIRE AND RESCUE GROUP AT THE LGA RURAL FIRE CONFERENCE AT GATESHEAD ON THE 14th MARCH 2018
Chris Strickland - Cambridgeshire FRS
Colin Bage - County Durham and Darlington FRS
Cllr Carol Theobald - East Sussex FRS
Cllr John Barnes - East Sussex FRA Chair
Mark O’Brien - East Sussex FRA
John Beard - Gloucestershire FRS
John Hodges - Hereford and Worcester FRS
Rob Allen - Hereford and Worcester FRS
Cllr Roger Phillips - Hereford and Worcester FRS
Cllr Judith Heathcote - Oxfordshire County Council
Simon Furlong - Oxfordshire FRS
Rod Hammerton - Shropshire and Wrekin FRS
Cllr Eric Carter - Shropshire County Council
Graham Biggs - RSN
David Inman – RSN
Lancashire - Chris Kenny
Dorset & Wiltshire - Rebecca Knox
North Yorkshire - CFO Hutchinson
Hertford - Darryl Keen
Suffolk - Matthew Hicks
Lincoln - Nick Borrill
Northumberland - Paul Hedley
Cumbria - CFO Steve Healey
Members discussed whether, and how, the Group should continue. It was decided there was continuing merit in a group of rural Fire and Rescue Authorities working together on key issues and that it should include both County and Combined organisations. It was further decided that there would be at least the one meeting each year, probably at the end of the conference as on this occasion. Where ongoing work is required, there may be a second meeting which might be positioned alongside the Chief Fire Officers Meeting in June.
The group meeting decided that, for the immediate future, it should concentrate its deliberations around the Fair Funding Review, with the implications of Rural Vulnerability and Retained Fire Operation considered with that activity
The group discussed the arguments that Fire and Rescue Authorities would have to employ in relation to the current Fair Funding Review, which were also relevant in respect to the promised new finance system that would eventually be introduced specifically in relation to the Fire and Rescue Service. It was concluded that there were areas of clear overlap, and that work done around the needs and resources blocks would indeed to inform and complement work in other areas. The group therefore decided it would like to try to gather evidence of the additional cost of running the service in rural areas at this stage.
Three immediate steps were envisaged:
Firstly, RSN would produce an overview paper setting out the history of the situation to date and what evidence was and was not available.
Simultaneous with step 1, the Fire and Rescue Services would identify, and send to the RSN by mid- April, their thoughts as to the key issues and detail what evidence they had to support the arguments of additional costs facing rural operations
It would then be for the June Meeting to decide what particular evidence should be sought to be collected, and the timeframe that would be involved.
Graham Biggs mentioned that this process may require a little financial support (depending on the outcomes of the June Meeting) and that this situation may have to also be looked at in June.
John Hodges of Hereford and Worcester FRS agreed to act as the point of contact.
The RSN detailed what work they had done around this topic in the past year. They had established a Rural Vulnerability day at Westminster in November of each year with an event on the 13th of November, which had proved to be very successful. Arising from this event, a group of approaching 50 MPs had been established to work with the RSN on Rural Vulnerability issues.
The RSN worked with Electricity Distributers and Suppliers and Water Companies to look at Vulnerability issues from the utility companies’ position including the working of a Priority Services Listing system. It was hoped that as this aspect of work grew, Fire and Rescue Services would be involved to add to joint working around this area and coordination at times of emergency.
Retained Fire Operation
The problems now being encountered in relation to this form of operation that was largely employed across rural areas were detailed. There was a very real fear that such operation would have to be supplemented by more traditional operation, and that rural stations would become very much more expensive as a result. It was thought this was an area where the Rural Fire Group could become involved in the future, including beyond the immediate funding issues.
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